Staff Picks

Don't forget to check out our staff picks for kids!

April 6, 2015

Treasury of Joy and Inspiration: 90 Years of Uplifting Storytelling

Treasury of Joy and Inspiration: 90 Years of Uplifting Storytelling
by Editors of Reader’s Digest
808.8 TRE

If you need a break from the tedium and discouragement of the world, pick up this lovely book and just start reading. Instead of ploughing straight through, why not try reading a story from each of the different sections. Your sense of wonder and of goodness in the world will be miraculously restored.

When the Franklin Road book discussion group read this title last fall, each participant picked out their favorite story, the story which had meant the most to them. There were some group favorites, but in the end, no one else picked my favorite: “Information, Please” by Paul Villiard:

As a small child growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Paul watched his mother call “Information, Please” for all sorts of questions on the large old-fashioned box telephone fastened to the wall on the stair landing in their home. One day when he was home alone, little Paul hit his finger with a hammer, and not knowing what else to do, he thought of calling “Information, Please.” The kind operator consoled him and told him to go the ice box and get an ice chip to hold on his finger.

After that, Paul called “Information, Please” every time he had a problem: when he needed to know where the Orinoco River was, when he needed help with his arithmetic, when he needed to know what to feed the pet chipmunk he had just caught in the park. And “Information, Please” came through with the right answer every time.

But one day, his pet canary died, and nothing “Information, Please” said could console him – until at last she told him quietly, “ Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.”

When Paul was nine, the family moved across the country to Boston, but the memories of those childhood conversations never left him. Years later, on his way west to college, on a layover in the Seattle airport, he tried calling his old hometown operator once again. Miraculously, the same voice answered. He inquired about how to spell the word “fix,” and he told her how much their conversations had meant to him. “I wonder,” she replied, if you know how much you meant to me. I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls.” Her name was Sally.

After his first semester was over three months later, he stopped at the same airport and called Sally again. Only this time a strange voice answered, and when he asked for Sally, he was told that she had been ill for some time and had died about five weeks ago. But then the new operator caught his name. Sally had left him a message: “Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean.”

                     — Recommended by Deborah Jones, Franklin Road Library


30 March, 2015

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance
by Bujold, Lois McMasters

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance is part of the Vorkosigan Saga. It is the most recent in the series, and chronologically it falls near the end of the series. This is one of the lighter and more enjoyable books in the series. The central character in the book is, as the title suggests, Captain Ivan Vorpatril. In prior books, Ivan has variously been Lieutenant Vorpatril or Lord Ivan. This book is much more about Ivan Xav, the man.

The book starts with an Imperial Security agent buzzing Ivan’s door in the middle of the night. This agent asks Ivan to undertake a special mission for Imperial Security – to meet up with a woman. For the womanizing bachelor Ivan, how hard could that be? The result is one part romantic comedy and another part mad caper.

This book is definitely science fiction: it has spaceships and floating cars and a blue alien. Wormhole travel and genetic manipulation are possible, and there are some glimpses at some military technology and even some criminal applications of technology. However, the lighter elements set it apart even from some of the other books in its own series, and the particular combination of science fiction, comedy and romance is very nearly unique.

The story does not race, but rather unwinds, if perhaps in some unexpected and occasionally ridiculous directions. Throughout, however, the tone remains wry and witty. The combination makes for a tale that is engaging and fun. For someone already familiar with the characters this was quite an enjoyable book. However, since this book shifts to Ivan as a new central character, readers new to the series can enjoy it, too.

                 --Recommended by Keith Dinnage, Haughville Library


March 23, 2015


by Johnson, Mat

This book was recommended to me by another librarian who knows about my love of graphic novels. Incognegro is more than just a graphic novel. Set in the 1930s, Harlem newspaper man Zane Pinchback exposes the murders committed against African Americans in the turbulent south by going Incognegro.

Incognegro provides the reader with an inside look into an undercover story of passing both by color and gender. Zane is a pale African American who poses as a Caucasian in order to expose members of the KKK in his news articles, written under the pseudonym Incognegro. Zane longs to be known for his news stories but realizes that he must remain anonymous if he is to keep trying to right the wrongs of the south. His work takes an interesting turn for the worse when he learns that his brother is being held for the murder of a Caucasian woman.

A mystery revolving around race and gender identity unfolds to reveal that some people are not what or who they claim to be.

                   --Recommended by Vanessa Jamerson, East 38th Street Library


March 16, 2015

Burial Rites

Burial Rites
by Kent, Hannah

I wish I was a better writer as I don’t think I can do this book justice! Set in Iceland in the early 1800s, it is the story of Agnes, an accused murderess, the family she is sent to live with on a remote farm until her execution, and the young minister assigned to bring her redemption and salvation. Margaret, the mother of the family, is at first fearful, but comes to appreciate Agnes’ help and learns that there is more to the crime than first appears. We slowly discover Agnes’ brutal early life and what led to the murder of her employer. “To know what a person has done, and to know who a person is, are very different things.” The starkness of the setting and the beautiful prose set off this intriguing story based on an actual case.

Burial Rites is also available as a downloadable e-book.

                — Recommended by Ann Grilliot, Lawrence Library


March 9, 2015

Up, Up, & Away: The Kid, The Hawk, Rock, Wladi, Pedro, Le Grand Orange, Youppi!, The Crazy Business of Baseball, & the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos

Up, Up, & Away: The Kid, The Hawk, Rock, Wladi, Pedro, Le Grand Orange, Youppi!, The Crazy Business of Baseball, & the Ill-fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos
by Keri, Jonah
796.35764 KER

The Montreal Expos played their final game of baseball in 2004, but the team lives on in Jonah Keri’s comprehensive history.

As a life-long fan of the Expos, Keri rehashes the highs and lows of the club’s 35 year history, allowing us to feel every triumph and heartbreak the way he did from his seat at Olympic Stadium. Even avid baseball fans may not know the unlikely story of how the Expos came to be the first Major League Baseball franchise based outside of the United States. Many may have forgotten the disappointment of the 1994 season, in which the Expos were leading the National League when a players’ strike ended the season prematurely. And while Hall of Famers like Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, and Randy Johnson may be household names for most baseball fans, many of those fans may not recall that those three players began their careers as Expos.

Though the Expos eventually left Canada and became the Washington Nationals, they left behind a legacy in Montreal that any fan of the team, or fan of baseball, will want to remember.

             — Recommended by Adam Todd, Spades Park Library